After an emphatic victory over Villarreal on Thursday, Barcelona now welcome Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Club to Camp Nou in the hopes of continuing their surge towards the league title.
Date: Sunday, 23rd October 2022
Competition: La Liga Santander
Venue: Camp Nou
Time: 09:00 PM (CEST)
As seen against Villarreal midweek, Xavi seems to have become inclined to structural as well as personnel changes in his team, and this may end up serving the team well against different types of oppositions thanks to the quality depth Barca possess within their ranks.
Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Bilbao had enjoyed a breezy start to their La Liga campaign this season, winning 4 out of their initial 5 games, but have since slumped out of form. In their previous 5 games, they’ve only managed to take away all 3 points on a singular occasion against Almeria, in a 4-0 win.
In terms of statistical analysis, Athletic Club so far have scored a total of 19 goals, and have the most goals scored in the entirety of the league only behind Real Madrid and Barcelona themselves, and have conceded just 8 goals so far as well, making them a very complete team to contend with both offensively and defensively, something Xavi will definitely need to keep an eye out for going into this game.
Moreover, Athletic Club are involved in no European competitions other than La Liga this
season and will be looking to put as much energy and quality into these games in the league as possible. And for Barcelona, winning this game will be crucial to stay on Real Madrid’s tail during this campaign, as the latter won against Sevilla last night before Xavi’s Barcelona clash against 6th-placed Athletic Bilbao.
Key players to keep an eye out for amongst the Bilbao ranks will definitely be the two William Brothers, Inaki, and Nico, who are both the team’s top scorer and top assist provider respectively. Keeping them at bay may just end up being instrumental for Barcelona if they aspire to win this game and continue their resurgence to get back into form and keep their morale high.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen
Wasn’t tested much against Villarreal, but it seems almost certain that he will be facing a much more testing game against Athletic Bilbao.
Left Back: Jordi Alba
A solid display against Villarreal on Thursday, seems like he may just be trusted again by Xavi in this upcoming game.
Right Back: Sergi Roberto
Showed that he’s capable enough of performing at that right-back position with the right setup and at the moment seems to be trusted more by Xavi than Hector Bellerin.
Centre Back: Jules Kounde
Showcasing exactly why he was worth the fuss over his signing, as he’s been incredibly
dependable in both of these last two games. First choice center back right now, and will
continue to be so when the injured Ronald Araujo returns to partner him.
Centre Back: Eric Garcia
Arguably a contest between the young Spaniard and the more experienced Marcos Alonso, it feels as if Xavi may be inclined to trust the more progressive Eric Garcia in this game against a compact Bilbao side.
CDM: Frenkie De Jong
Given possibly one of his best-ever performances for Barcelona in midweek, Frenkie De Jong’s placement in the pivot role will still need to be consistently tested to provide a more holistic conclusion on his dependability in the position.
Should be a great game for the young Pedri to continue his fine form in the midfield position and help Barcelona maintain control of possession and be a constant orchestrator for their progression.
First the Kopa, and now the Golden Boy award. The best young talent in Europe is sure to take the accolades and use them to fuel his own motivation going into matchday 11.
Right Winger: Ousmane Dembele
Following a rather strong cameo against Villarreal, the chance he created for Raphinha may
have just found the net would he have been paired up with Lewandowski or Ansu Fati instead, something this game potentially gives him the chance to be.
Left Winger: Ansu Fati
A great show against Real Madrid and then a solid performance against Villarreal definitely
should warrant the 19-year-old an assured spot against Athletic Bilbao, something he will
definitely try his best to make the most of given the upcoming World Cup selection for Spain.
Centre Forward: Lewandowski
Scored two emphatically skilled goals midweek, Lewandowski will be hoping to continue his fine goalscoring form against Athletic Bilbao and further strengthen his shot at the Pichichi and the European golden boot.
Goalkeeper: Ter Stegen
Defenders: Roberto, Kounde, Garcia, Alba
Midfielders: Pedri, De Jong, Gavi
Attackers: Dembele, Lewandowski, Fati